Report: Kawhi Leonard's Uncle Dennis Allegedly Made Illegal FA Requests in CBA

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJuly 22, 2019

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard celebrates after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, June 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

Dennis Robertson, the uncle of Kawhi Leonard who is known to be one of his top influencers, reportedly attempted to circumvent the NBA's collective bargaining agreement during free-agency negotiations this summer.

ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said the following on Monday's First Take:

"This is me putting on my reporter's hat here. People in NBA circles are talking about this right now: Allegedly, the uncle, Uncle Dennis, was asking for a lot of stuff from the other teams; houses, planes, sponsorship, guaranteed sponsorship money, just as an example. They're throwing this stuff out there. All of those things are supposedly illegal in the collective bargaining agreement. I have no idea whether this is true or not. I'm not trying to cast any aspersions on Uncle Dennis, but people in NBA circles are talking about this as we speak. Why is that important? Because one could argue the reason why this story is out there right now about the Lakers and the Raptors feeling played wasn't just because of what Uncle Dennis asked for, but they're going to try to turn that around and parlay that into a question about what did the Clippers give up to get Kawhi Leonard. So in other words, you've got teams right now playing games with one another talking about they're trying to point the finger at the Clippers saying, 'let's ask what the Clippers did to get Kawhi Leonard.'

"I'm here to tell you right now, we don't care. We don't care. The bottom line is Kawhi Leonard is with the Los Angeles Clippers. He's not with the Lakers or the Raptors, but I'm telling you right now in the days to come you're going to hear more noise about what Kawhi's camp was asking for, with questions about what the Clippers gave up."

If the Clippers are found to have violated the CBA, they could be subject to a penalty that includes a $3 million fine, a loss of a first-round pick and/or the voiding of Leonard's contract. The most notable example of CBA circumvention was the Minnesota Timberwolves' illegal contractual agreement with Joe Smith, which resulted in the team losing four first-round picks, having Smith's contracts voided and a $3.5 million fine.

It's unclear if the NBA has any plans to investigate the report, which offered no hard evidence of the Clippers acting outside the rules. Rumors of Leonard's desire to play for the Clippers date back to last summer, and the team was not shy about its courtship. It was known that Clippers officials traveled around the league last season to watch Leonard play, including president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank.

Simon Mass, CEO of The Condo Store Realty Inc., famously offered Leonard a multimillion-dollar penthouse if he were to re-sign in Toronto. It's theoretically possible that Leonard's team took that offer and looked to find a similar arrangement with the Clippers, though that would constitute a CBA violation.

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Of course, there are numerous examples of teams acting within the rules to placate their stars. We've seen close friends of stars and even brothers of elite players land NBA contracts in moves that seem designed to placate franchise faces.

Members of LeBron James' team are given access to Lakers facilities not afforded to other players on the roster. This kind of star treatment exists everywhere. However, working beyond the CBA for additional compensation is something the NBA would take seriously and should investigate if the report proves to have any merit.